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Efforts made to establish a Central Confederacy in 1861. [from the Richmond, Va., Times June 19, 1900]

An important document.

Virginia among the States.

Active interest taken by Marylands executive and others to form the proposed New Government.

A document has recently been published in an obscure portion of the ‘Records of the War Between the States’ which shows that just prior to the outbreak of the conflict between the States negotiations were begun looking to the formation of a Central Confederacy, in addition to the Southern Confederacy, in event of the dissolution of the Union. The States included in these negotiations were Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Missouri and Ohio.

To most historians the fact that such a Confederacy was in contemplation is a surprise, and for them awaits the task of tracing out the beginning, the progress and the termination of the negotiations.

The only document which has thus far come to light and in which any reference to the proposed Confederacy is made is the report of Mr. Ambrose R. Wright, dated at Savannah, Ga., March 13, 1861, and addressed to Hon. G. W. Crawford, President of the Georgia Convention, by which Mr. Wright had been authorized to visit Maryland and to induce this State, if possible, to join the Confederacy of the cotton-growing States of the South. Mr. Wright visited Maryland, and at Annapolis he had an interview with Governor Hicks, in which the latter referred to the proposed formation of the Central Confederacy.

Maryland's action at that time, whether it would throw her fortunes with the South or remain in the Union, depended to a great extent upon the action of Virginia, which had not at the time of Mr. Wright's visit to Maryland separated from the Union. The most reasonable explanation of the termination of the negotiations was the secession of Virginia a few weeks after Mr. Wright's visit. With the loss of Virginia to the projected Confederacy the whole scheme evidently fell through.


Marylands position.

In the meantime, as is well known, the friends of the Union in Maryland had rallied. Hon. Henry Winter Davis' strong hand was exerted, and Governor Hicks was, almost by force, compelled to take sides with the North. His course resulted in the stay of proceedings by which the Southern sympathizers had expected to swing Maryland into the column of seceding States.

These are, however, well known historical facts. The correspondence to which Governor Hicks makes reference would be interesting, if it could be found. The archives at Annapolis, Richmond, Trenton, Albany and Columbus should contain the letters in which are fully outlined plans for this new Confederacy. The language of the report of Mr. Wright gives rise to the belief that other States than those named were involved in the project, and, hence, an extension of the field of inquiry. It is very evident, however, that in the darkest and gloomiest days of the Union, when the cotton-growing States of the South had formed a powerful combination, there arose another sceptre, powerful in resources of men, arms, munitions and wealth, which, if directed against the Union, simultaneously with the blow from the South, would have crushed it, and, instead of one Union, ‘inseparable forever,’ the map of the United States would to-day show at least three, if not more, combinations of States.

Mr. Wright, in his report to Mr. Crawford, President of the Georgia convention, says:

On the 25th of February (1861), I visited for the third time Annapolis, the seat of government (having failed, while there on a former visit on the 21st, to meet the Executive), and waited upon Governor Hicks, and after a personal interview and pretty free interchange of opinion with His Excellency, I handed to him the ordinance of secession with which I was entrusted, and also a written communication, in which I endeavored to justify and explain the action of the State of Georgia, and attempted to show that the material interests of Maryland would be greatly promoted and advanced by her co-operation with the seceding States. To this communication I have received no reply, although, upon a suggestion of Governor Hicks that he would favor me with a reply at his earliest convenience, I have waited for two days to receive such communication as he should be pleased to make to your body.

In the absence of any written reply to my note of the 25th ultimo, I can only give your honorable body the result of the personal [146] interview I had with the Governor, and I regret to say that I found him not only opposed to the secession of Maryland from the Federal Union, but that if she should withdraw from the Union he advised and would urge her to confederate with the Middle States in the formation of a central confederacy. He almost informed me that he had already, in his official character, entered into correspondence with the governors of those States, including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Missiouri and Ohio, with a view, in the event of an ultimate disruption of the Federal Union, to the establishment of such central confederacy.

He thought our action hasty and ill-advised, and not justified by the action of which we complain, and that we were attempting to coerce Maryland to follow our example; but he had great confidence in the Peace Conference then in session in Washington, and had assurances that that body would agree upon a plan of adjustment that would be entirely acceptable to Maryland; that the proposition before the conference known as the Guthrie plan was a fair and proper basis of compromise and settlement. He also informed me, in the course of our interview, and in answer to a direct inquiry from me on that point, that in the event of the Federal government's attempting to coerce the seceding States he would interpose no objection to the marching or transporting of troops through his State, and their embarkation at Baltimore by the Federal government for that purpose; that, as chief magistrate of the State, he had no power to prevent it, as it would not be an invasion of the State, and that he would not convene the Legislature under such circumstances, that they might take action in the premises.

These opinions and views of the Governor I have reasons to believe are not entertained by a majority of the people of Maryland. Indeed, I have no doubt that the people there would spontaneously rise en masse and resist the invaders, though it crimsoned their soil with the best blood of the State. The people, then, in my humble judgment are true to the memories of the past. They are a gallant, patriotic and brave people, whose feelings and sympathies are warmly enlisted in our cause, and although some of them do entertain the opinion that we have, perhaps, acted precipitately, they acknowledge that our action is fully justified by the events of the past, and declare their determination to assist us, if need be, in sustaining our independence. It is greatly to be regretted that such a gallant people should be prevented by their own officials, however high they may be, from giving an authoritative expression of their conviction, [147] and of taking such action as, in their judgment, the affairs of the country demand. Without the consent of Governor Hicks neither the Legislature nor an authorized convention can be assembled, and I have no hesitancy in stating that he will never convene either. If Virginia shall withdraw from the Union the people of Maryland will, in the shortest possible period of time, assume the responsibility, assemble in spontaneous convention, and unite their destinies with the Confederate States of the South.

In conclusion, I would respectfully add that this communication would have been made at an earlier day, but I waited, hoping to receive an answer from Governor Hicks before I laid before your body the result of my mission.

Sympathetic resolutions.

While Mr. Wright was in Baltimore, on his way to Annapolis, the celebrated convention was held here, over which Hon. Robert M. McLane presided, and which passed resolutions of sympathy with the South, reserving any suggestion for definite action until Virginia had acted. These resolutions, which have become historic, are as follows:

Whereas, It is the opinion of this meeting that in the present alarming crisis in the history of our country it is desireable that the State of Maryland should be represented by judicious, intelligent and patriotic agents, fully authorized to confer and act with our sister States of the South, and particularly with the State of Virginia; and,

Whereas, Such authority can be conferred solely by a convention of the people of the State; and,

Whereas, In the opinion of the meeting, the Legislature not being in session, a full and fair expression of the popular will is most likely to be heard by a convention called by a recommendation of the Executive; and,

Whereas, It is alleged that the Governor now has it in contemplation to recommend by proclamation such a movement in the event of a failure by the Peace Conference and Congress to effect any satisfactory solution of the vexed question now agitating the country; be it, therefore,

Resolved, That we shall approve such proceedings on the part of the Governor and add the voice of this convention to urge the voters of this State to regard such proclamation. And, with a view [148] to allow time for the action of the Governor in the matter, the convention will adjourn until the 12th of March next, unless intermediately the State of Virginia should, by her sovereign convention, secede from the Union, in which event, and in case the Governor of the State shall not have then called a sovereign convention of the people of this State, this convention shall at once assemble at the call of the president, with a view of recommending to the people of this State the election of delegates to such a sovereign convention.

Resolved further, as the sense of this convention, That the secession of the several slave-holding States from the Federal Union was induced by the aggression of the non-slave-holding States, in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved further, That the moral and material interest and the geographical position of this State demand that it should act with Virginia in this crisis, co-operating with that State in all honorable efforts to maintain and defend the constitutional rights of its citizens in the Union, and failing in that, to associate with her in confederation with our sister States in the Union.

Resolved further, That the honor of this State requires that it should not permit its soil to be made a highway for Federal troops sent to make war upon our sister States of the South, and it is the opinion of this convention that an attempt on the part of the Federal government to coerce the States which have seceded would necessarily result in civil war, and the destruction of the government itself.

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